Ministers Consider Plans to Drop Mandatory Housing Targets

Being reported in Times Paywall

Ministers are considering dropping plans for mandatory housebuilding targets after fierce resistance from Tory MPs.

The government announced last year that it would make housebuilding targets binding in an effort to force reluctant councils to build more homes.

However, there is a recognition in Whitehall that some local authorities face constraints that make it harder for them to accommodate more houses, and the plans are being reconsidered.

If implemented the targets could lead to 400,000 homes being built on greenfield land in southern England, according to an analysis by the countryside charity CPRE. In Buckinghamshire, the county of Chesham & Amersham, more than 11,000 homes will be built on rural land.

Ministers are also likely to fine-tune other reforms to the planning system announced last year, which are designed to stop affluent homeowners objecting to individual applications. Councils will be able to designate “protection” sites for limited development and localised “growth” sites for more intense housebuilding. In growth sites, housing will receive automatic approval unless developers deviate from height and density limits agreed by residents.

In a speech to the Commons this week, Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, urged Tory backbenchers to get behind his proposals, saying planning was “always contentious” but that MPs were not elected to “tackle the easy questions”. He said it was the government’s duty to tackle the housing crisis and build homes for the “generations to come”.

Jenrick is being helped in his efforts by members of the new intake of red wall MPs, who have been drafted in to persuade older colleagues to back the changes. Senior backbenchers remained unconvinced, however, saying the reforms could damage the Tory party’s chances at the next election. “We will be going to the polls with the threat of tower blocks hanging over our heads,” one said.

The Planning Bill will be introduced later this year and will be subject to the principle of English votes for English laws, meaning only a huge Conservative rebellion would defeat it.

The reforms are the brainchild of Jack Airey, a Downing Street aide who has previously dismissed “nimby” Conservative MPs concerned about overdevelopment in their constituencies. In an article last year he said that it would take courage “to overcome the inevitable onslaught of nimby criticism” to fix the planning system.

A government spokesman said: “We will publish the government’s response to the white paper consultation setting out the way forward, ahead of introducing the Planning Bill to parliament.”

More might be made of this than meets the eye – it seems not to mean end of the Standard Method, rather the attempt to make a standard method the STARTING POINT as it is now, but cancelling the impractical plan to make standard method plus formula based on constraints the ENDING POINT, which was totally impractical.

The issue is how the shortfall from land, environmentally and policy constrained areas so the 300,000k target is met. There is only one answer to that. Strategic Planning.